I’m a “little” late to the game. I never got to play “Persona” 1, 2 or even 3 during the time they were relevant, but I got to try out a little of “Persona 4” about two years ago, and it wasn’t until I got “Persona 4 Golden” for the PS Vita that I got to finish the game. I loved every second of it. It was quirky where it needed to be, serious where it was required, the music was fantastic. The combat was excellent, and it was all a fun time. I wasn’t so sure about this game when I first heard about it. I didn’t get to see any trailers about it, and one of my friends summarized it by saying “You play a thief.” I was kind of “eh” about it, given how little I saw of it, but I knew that in time, I’d play it for myself.
Am I ever glad that I got it on release. I’ve sunk 104 hours into beating the game and even more going through NG+ in an attempt to get the Platinum Trophy. So much has changed from the formula I got to know and love from Persona 4, but it still feels like it belongs in the same series with its new innovations.
One thing I’ll warn of right away is that if you’re like me and only played “Persona 4” previously, this game is far darker than its immediate predecessor. While “Persona 4” dealt with a number of dark topics, including murder, the dark psyche, and the human condition of running from our true selves, “Persona 5” deals with much worse, and it feels more grown up as a result. From murder, to sexual assault (and implied rape), suicide, fraud, the list just goes on. Nevertheless, it handles those problems in a very mature way, and it never gets too dark to the point of absurdity, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I believe that “Persona 5” got the balance for its story just right.
This game opens right in the middle of the action. The main character is in a casino trying to escape with the treasure he was after. After introducing you to a number of game mechanics you’ll become very familiar with later, you are arrested and told you were sold out by your own teammate, leaving you on edge about every character you encounter as the game goes on. The story is my favorite out of the two that I’ve played. While there are a couple of questions that didn’t get answered given the nature of the story, I found myself enjoying every event the game threw at me. Though I would be lying if I said that one character’s development didn’t feel rushed compared to the time spent building up the rest of the main cast before they are made official allies.
As for the graphics, there are few that can compare. The 1080 graphics are only the beginning as the colors are so vibrant and make the world feel so alive. I do have to criticize the usage of the color red. This is more of a personal issue, but red is a strong color, and it’s everywhere. In some areas, it’s so strong it can hurt to look at, but that could be due to my eyes being particularly bad and won’t determine my final score. This is just in case anyone else has a similar issue. I also had one instant in which the textures jumped around at the corner of a hallway in the second-to-last dungeon, but if I hadn’t taken a few seconds to stop and rest, I wouldn’t have even noticed it. Just a minor issue that is barely noticeable.
It would be a sin against everything holy if I didn’t talk about its music. Every note of the music is appropriate to its situation and there are so many memorable tracks. Even so, my favorite song is still “River in the Desert” (it’s the final boss track). As it’s absolutely gorgeous. However, the game still suffers from one issue that it shares in common with “Persona 4”, and that is that the standard battle music, while excellent, can be especially grating on one’s mind after a few hours of play.
During the downtime, there’s a lot to do. When you’re not fighting shadows in the Palaces created by the antagonists, you can spend sometimes upping your social stats: Knowledge, Guts, Charm, Kindness, and Proficiency. There are a variety of ways to do this, but the major ways include reading, playing video games, working, or eating. Of course if you want to spend some time on your Social Links, known as Confidants in this game, some of them up social stats on their own the more you pursue them. You’ll occasionally get requests to change the hearts of random civilians, most of which are related to the Moon Confidant, which are solved in a collective shadow world outside of the individual dungeons. There is so much to do in this game that it’s almost impossible to everything in one go. I’ve finished my second playthrough and I still have to read all the books, play the games, and other miscellaneous tasks on my road to Platinum.
As I’ve said, there have been major changes to the combat and gameplay. Like its predecessors, it revolves around turn-based combat where each main character has an element of their own along with their own niche. Certain characters are good for attack, some for attack magic, and some for healing, with the main character being the wild card that can change his niche as easily as he can change Personas. What has changed in terms of combat, for a start, is the addition of a gun which handles pesky flying enemies, with each character having their own type of gun. By going through the Tower Confidant, you can gain more gun-related perks.
Furthermore, by going through the Star Confidant, you can gain more combat-related perks. Outside of combat, instead of being randomly-generated hallways that go on for 10+ floors, there are permanent layouts for each dungeon that rely on puzzle-solving and platforming to navigate around (outside of a dungeon made from the mind of the general public where sidequests are completed). Even though this is a massive change to the original formula, but I feel that it’s a welcome change, given how tedious the endless randomly-generated floors can be in “Persona 4”.
Nevertheless, any game, like any movie, book, or whatever, isn’t without its faults. As I’ve said, there are times where the combat music grates on the mind, moments of texture flashes in one of the later dungeons, and a few minor issues. A couple of the later dungeons do get a bit tedious to a point of mental exhaustion. You are given about 2-3 weeks for the later dungeons, and I’m assuming the pre-stated mental exhaustion is the reason. The first couple of dungeons are forced, by story reasons, to take more than one day, whereas the later dungeons give you the option to do them all in one day, but it’s clear that you are meant to take your time with them, as the loading screen tells you to. Additionally, in the end of the game, there are a few camera issues revolving around its platforming, but the particular area of the game where that was an issue lasted around five-ten minutes or so, That’s also why I don’t find it to be terribly annoying.
While these issues are tedious, I don’t feel as though it takes away from the overall experience. While not a perfect game in my opinion, it is one of the most fun games of the year and does follow through on 2017’s series of fantastic games. I believe that in just a few months we’ve seen a string of great games, and “Persona 5” is no exception. As for the replayability, I would say that the game will definitely last. As of now, I’m on my third playthrough trying to get all the tedious chores out-of-the-way to get the Platinum. I haven’t gotten bored with the game given its ways of keeping the audience entertained. Even so, I would expect nothing less from Atlus and their crew.
+ Combat recognizable by old fans while mixing it up
+ Great story with fantastic twists and fabulous philosophy
+ Music that you’ll never forget
+ So much to do during your downtime to improve overall gameplay
+ Memorable characters each with their own arch, as expected
– Battle music can get tedious if you play a lot of the game in one sitting
– Main character’s lines get repetitive when you surprise attack a shadow
– Later levels become mentally exhausting if you try to one-shot it
Replay Value: 5/5
Atlus “Persona 5” is a JRPG that needs to be experienced. As it’s everything I expected from a “Persona” game with new innovations that made it more interesting to play. The game starts off strong and only gets stronger as you go. I had to give it a 4.5/5 due to some of the tedium that builds up, though it is only a small portion in the overall scheme of the game. I believe this game, despite its flaws, is a much more thrilling game to experience to the precedent I experienced in “Persona 4”. After playing through this game, I can say for certain that 2017 started strong and will definitely continue through so long as we get content like this.
Title: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 5
Format: PS3, PS4
Resolution: 720 on PS3, 1080 on PS4 and PS4 Pro
Release Date: 2017-04-04 (America)
Spent time: 168 hours, 25 minutes
Average grade internationally: 94.16% Gamerankings.com
ESRB Rating: M
Price: $60 USD for PS4, $50 USD for PS3
The review code was provided by Play-Asia.
Robin Ek – Editor
The Gaming Ground
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